Friday, July 27, 2012

WWII GERMAN SUBMARINE U--550 LOCATED OFFSHORE NANTUCKET ISLAND, MA

Discovery:
U-550 sinking April 16, 1944
On July 23, 2012, after years of hard work, research and multiple field searches, the final resting place of the World War II German submarine U-550 was finally discovered.  Finding the submarine, one of the last undiscovered German U-boats sunk off the American coast during the Second World War, has been of interest to historians, World War II buffs, and divers for many years.  Previous efforts to locate the wreck, however, have proven unsuccessful.  The U-boat was finally located using side scan sonar technology in deep water offshore of Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, where she was reported sunk in 1944.  U-550 was found lying mostly intact on the ocean bottom with an approximate 45-degree list to starboard.  
Sonar Image of U-550 sitting on the seafloor

Photographic and sonar imaging by the expedition team were used to identify the wreck as that of a World War II German submarine, and combined with the wreck's location relative to the historical sinking position, confirm that the find is that of the elusive U-550. Members of the discovery team (in alphabetical order) are: Steve Gatto, Garry Kozak, Joe Mazraani, Tom Packer, Brad Sheard, Eric Takakjian and Anthony Tedeschi.



Photo Mosaic showing the deck & torpedo loading hatch of U-550


Historical Background:

On April 16, 1944, the German submarine U-550, a type IXC/40 long-range U-boat under the command of Kaptitanleutnant Klaus Hanert, put a single torpedo into the stern of the 10,017-ton American tanker Pan Pennsylvania.  The Allied tanker was in convoy and bound for England loaded with 140,000 barrels of gasoline at the time.  Following the torpedo explosion, the ship took on an immediate list to port, and when a fire broke out in the engine room the tanker was abandoned in short order.  The convoy escorts picked up 56 survivors, leaving 25 men missing out of a crew of 81.
T3 Tanker Pan Pennsylvania

After picking up the survivors from the Pan Pennsylvania, the U.S. Navy destroyer escorts USS Joyce, Peterson and Gandy combined their efforts to bring swift and fatal retribution to the attacking submarine.  Picking up a solid contact with her sonar gear, USS Joyce closed on the target and made a depth-charge attack that quickly brought the U-550 to the surface.  Gunfire from all three escorts converged on the surfaced submarine as German sailors poured out of her hatches, briefly returning fire with their own weapons.  Meanwhile, USS Gandy rammed the submarine aft and the Germans abandoned ship.  A muffled explosion aboard the submarine indicated the crew had set off scuttling charges and U-550 sank stern first.  Twelve survivors from the submarine were picked up by the destroyer escorts, while 44 men were lost.  Patrol boats picked up the bodies of three German sailors outfitted with escape gear during the next several weeks:  they had apparently escaped the sunken submarine only to die adrift at sea.  The tanker Pan Pennsylvania capsized and drifted for two days, her cargo of gasoline on fire, before finally being sunk with gunfire.

Torpedo Loading Hatch (Left) & Submarine Decking (Right) 

Additional Historical Information:
Refer to the US Coast Guard website: http://www.uscg.mil/history/uscghist/u550.asp

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